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Top 50 All-Time Greatest Jays: #44 Otto Velez

Otto Franceschi Velez|DH,RF,LF|1977-1982


Otto_medium

 

Runs Created as a Jay: 274

Otto Velez was born November 29, 1950 in Ponce, Puerto Rico. He was signed as an amateur free agent in 1968 by the New York Yankees. In 1973 he made it to the majors playing in 23 games as a September call up for the Yankees. For the next 3 seasons he played a handful of games for the Yankees but he was blocked from a full time job by the Yankee's fondness for signing free agents.

The Jays picked Otto up in the major league expansion draft in 1976. That first year the Jays were awful, finishing with a 54-107 record. Well to be honest they were an awful team for all the years Otto was with the team. But he was pretty good, in 1977 he hit .256/.366/.458 with 16 home runs and 62 RBI in 120 games. He had a good eye at the plate leading the team in walks. He mostly played right field that year and he was, well, terrible as a RFer. Rob Neyer says that Velez was the worst right fielder in team history and I can't argue that. He had little range and basically no arm at all. But the team had a 38 year old Ron Fairly and a handful of other guys that really couldn't field, so the DH spot was filled. A typical right handed slugger he crushed lefties.

In 1978, the Jays weren't any better, but Velez still hit quite well batting .266/.380/.448 with 9 homers and 38 RBI in 91 games. His playing time was split between left and right field, he also DHed some and played a game at first. In 1979 he hit .288/.396/.529 in 99 games with 15 home runs and 48 RBI. He again played mostly left and right field, DHed in 9 games and played first 6 times.

1980 saw Velez become a full time DH, playing 97 games as a DH and 3 at first base. He set career highs in home runs (20), runs (54) and tied his high for RBI (62). He hit .269/.365/.487 and an OPS+ of 127 his 4th straight year with the Jays with an OPS+ over 120. On May 4th he hit four home runs in a doubleheader against Cleveland and he hit one of each type, solo, two run, three run and grand slam.

1981, the strike year he had a poor season batting .213/.363/.404. When he was a young player he had old player skills and turning 30 those skills diminished quickly. 1983 he played in just 28 games and batter just .192 and was replaced at DH by Dave Revering and a cast of thousands. After the 1982 season the Jays released him and he signed with the Cleveland Indians. He played just 10 games for the Indians and that was the end of his major league career at 32.

There is very little information on the web about Otto. He coached the Puerto Rico National Team in the 1992 Olympics and the 1994 Baseball World Cup. And that's about all that can be found about his post major league life. If anyone has any more information about Otto Velez, let me know and I'll add it to this.


Otto Velez' ranking among Jay batting leaders:

34th Games Played 522
40th At Bats 1531
37th Runs 214
41st Hits 394
34th Total Bases 706
37th Doubles 76
20th Home Runs 72
28th RBI 243
15th Walks
26th Strike Outs 334
34th Games 522
37th Runs 214